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Male Pattern Baldness Linked to Prostate Cancer
- Updated: September 16, 2014
A new study published in the current issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology reports that men with male pattern baldness are at greater risk for developing a specific aggressive type of prostate cancer over men without this condition.
As part of the study, authors noted whether any real concern should be raised for this pattern of baldness. At this time, a link between male pattern baldness and aggressive prostate cancer was found although cause and effect remains unknown.
According to Michael Cook, investigator with the division of cancer epidemiology and genetics at the United States National Cancer Institute and co-author of the study, it is conceivable that at some time in the future, this form of balding may play a small role in determining possible risk of prostate cancer. He goes on to say that the findings of the study may also prompt discussions between medical professionals and patients about better screening.
What is Male Pattern Baldness?
This particular type of balding involves hair loss that starts at the front of the hairline and crown of the head. In certain men, hair will also begin to recede on both left and right sides near the upper forehead, leaving a small amount of hair in between.
As stated by Charles Ryan, associate clinical professor at the University of California’s Department of Medicine, male pattern baldness develops because of an accumulative and lifelong exposure to testosterone in the skin. While the level of this male hormone may not be the direct problem, the skin’s inability to process it is.
To combat male pattern baldness, several products have been developed over the years to include Propecia. These products are designed to block the effects of testosterone, also referred to as the “male hormone”. However, testosterone is also the hormone that drives prostate cancer and as such, explains why earlier research shows a link between it and male pattern baldness.
Identifying a Direct Link
This study ran from 1993 to 2001 and consisted of nearly 40,000 men in the US between 55 and 74 years of age. All the participants were required to answer questions pertaining to level and type of hair loss experienced at age 45. Of those men, approximately 18% recalled having male pattern baldness.
The follow up period for the study was from 2006 to 2008, which helped in the discovery of over 1,100 men being diagnosed with prostate cancer, close to 600 of them with an aggressive form. For the men who recalled having male pattern baldness, 39% had an increased risk of developing aggressive prostate cancer over those who did not remember balding of this kind. However, according to the authors of the study, the type of aggressive prostate cancer was limited.
Researchers also found that only male pattern baldness was linked to aggressive, as well as other types of prostate cancer. Information showed some dramatic limitations such as men being able to accurately remember a history of male pattern baldness at age 45 and how much hair was actually lost. Findings showed that 89% of the men affected were Caucasians therefore knowing the degree of risk for non-Caucasians is unknown at this time.
Ryan suggested that men in their 40s with male pattern baldness should be followed more closely by healthcare professionals than those without it. Some people think this type of balding is simply a condition but with the data gathered from this latest study, there is an implication that it might be an early warning of something far more serious.
Currently, controversy continues within the medical profession regarding the true value of screening men for prostate cancer, whether they have male pattern baldness or not.